writing the body of the world

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“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” – John Muir, American environmentalist

 

This week we both wrote and drew into the spaces created by what ever came before. The opening poem describes green vines growing into the cracks in the walls made by both love letters and bullet holes. The whole range of human experience however beautiful or violent created space to grow. Through their work as artists and writers, each inmate explored that while they do not wish a repeat of some of their past experiences, they recognize that something else can grown from them.

In the pieces below, you will read an account of these experiences and the writing process each writer engaged in to explore each experience.


WHAT HAS COME TO PASS

It doesn’t matter what came to pass.
More often than not life has put me right on my ass.
There have been times I worked so hard, only to fall harder
like a candle in the wind/trying to withstand the pressure.
A children learning to ride a bicycle/truth be known
You need to fall in order to gain some balance.
Have you ever blown out a candle to relight it?
The flame travels down the smoke to be greater than
the one your breath lost.
I personally believe everything comes with a cost.
We don’t know what kind of pain to anticipate
until we are burned.
It doesn’t matter what came to pass.
If you prepare today, tomorrow will be easy.
I don’t mean to sound cheesy.
Leave the past where it is/gone by too fast.
One thing I learned, hard as a stone.
Everyone has a sad story/ I used to tell
mine all the time/thinking about all
the tears, pain, how gory.
My daddy taught me everyone’s lives vary.
Sympathy lies between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.
It’s not what it was.
It is and always has been what you make it.

DB

***
AWAKENING
to awaken for no good reason… Continue reading

container of care

My Modern Met

Plant a seed, this springtime. Hold it in your hand, and envision a world in which we live in balance with nature, at peace with one another, where creativity and love can flourish. Place your seed in the earth. Water and tend it as you tend those qualities and take those actions which can bring that world to birth.
–  Starhawk

We are all of us all the time coming together and falling apart. The point is, we are not rocks.
Who wants to be one anyway, impermeable, unchanging, our history already played out.
 –John Rosenthal

In our writing group, each week is an act of continuous tending. We come together to write and attend to a delicate ecosystem of words, writing, and agreements. If we do not hold to agreements, we can’t share our words. If we do not share our words, there is not point to the agreements. In this week’s group, I found myself saying again and again, “This is where our listening is as important as our speaking.”

And this is always true. Throughout group, there is no moment where listening is not fundamentally important – it is what allows us to write and hear one another, to share and be understood. The hope is that each of us use this as a model as we continue out into our lives. In the poems below, you will read what we heard and bore witness to, how the strength and consistency of our listening and the container created by our group leads to powerful writing, to power discovered in writing.

AN UPTURNED HAND

At times, we forget how much
we are really capable of dealing with.
We are taught as we grow to multiply fast,
hold our lives together: work, school, kids,
partner, house, set…
but are we doing the best we can
with all these things?
Are we giving it our all?
Or are we just getting by
at the end of the day?
We ask ourselves if we did okay
open our hand and ask for the strength
to get through it again tomorrow.

JB

***
LIFE LINES

A hand turned upwards holds…

the life lines that linked me to my
mother’s womb, embraced my welcoming
into the unknown world, held tightly
on to my mother’s finger as she searches
for 10 fingers and 10 toes.

A hand turned upward held many
possibilities, opportunities only known
because I had to physically touch the gifts
given to me.

A hand turned up is a hand ready
to receive, a final exhale and moments
of impact are remembered and
the memory cherished.

A hand holds comfort, it searches
for love and it sheds the path of what
was old and welcomes the new.

A hand is steady, and strong, endures
pain remembers what’s familiar and
sometimes hesitant to change.

TD

***
DEAR MAMA-MAMA

I would just describe her as an extraordinary yet ordinary woman.

Mama mama, you’re a star, a damn star.
Mama, remember when I lived in my car?
When I took the street shit too far?
How you always allowed me to come home?
You never gave up. You just loved me so hard.
Mama mama.
You’re the realist; I was always on the corners
making those deals, had to call collect
and you let me have it, always told me how you feel
and still do, although we shared many tears
and fears – the most common one was one
of us dying from our addiction, Mama.
You always prayed, I wouldn’t get killed.
My mama-my mama, you’re my world.
You taught me how to win and not be a loser.
I know I used to tell you, “I hate you,”
but really, I’d hate to lose you.
Mama mama, I know I’m incarcerated,
missing Mother’s Day. I’m sorry Ma,
but I’ll be alright. I really tried mama I still am.
Now that I’m older I regret making you,
all the times, I lied didn’t help none.
Mama your baby boy loves you.
You have a beautiful soul, Ma.

Mama, mama, you’re my lady.
You’re the realest. I love you, Mama.

JH

***

DOSE DAILY

My whole life I’ve been hidden
in institutions. In my mind,
I have always been trapped.
Locked away is where I find myself
with no possibility for change.
Every day, I put on a facade:
A pretty face, a huge heart
but beneath the surface
I’m falling apart, caught up
in the toxic life.
I’m looking for an exit only
finding dead ends.
But here’s a daily dose of brutal honesty:
Despair is not a strategy.
At times, I forget how much
I am really capable of dealing with.
A hand held upwards holds
what needs to heal.
Sometimes it comes to a rare moment,
one good fight. Other times,
we open our hands and ask
for the strength
to get through it again tomorrow.
A hand upturned is a hand
ready to receive.
I build my life better.
I never give up.
I carry on, a white fox,
a one-eyed race horse.
My power’s got no limits.

mr

real security

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They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin

Education is our only political safety. Outside of this ark all is deluge. – Horace Mann

Our obsession with protecting ourselves makes us less safe. – Eve Ensler

We live in uncertain times. That’s all we can be certain about, really. And during uncertain times, we experience fear enough to cause us to put up walls and shut things out in an effort to feel more safe. Of course, these kinds of walls make creating connections difficult, make creating art difficult.  In group, we asked ourselves: “What is safe? What does it feel like? What threatens our safety? What do we hold out or hold in?”

We illustrated images of our own safe spaces and wrote on the concept of safety. Thankfully, the writers in our circle did not shut themselves in or each other out. Within the safety of the circle, we were able share our words and the kindness of witnessing silence. Their words, freely and safely offered, are below. 

A PIECE OF OURSELVES

At a certain level we all know that yelling cannot be stopped with yelling. Fighting is only ceased when those at odds lay their weapons down completely. Security is not achieved by locking someone away behind cement walls. No color, no voices to save the mind. Security makes a madness of mankind.

I remember helping at a daycare. Heavy in my late pregnancy. Across the room, a small boy held a tonka truck tightly in his hand. Waiting to strike it over the head of another boy in front of him. I was too slow to get up and stop him. Yelling would not have saved the day. I did not think but to say, Aba Yo-Yo. A childhood tale rose to my lips and I told the story of the dancing giant. The tonka truck hit the floor as all came around to listen. Continue reading

making history

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It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here. ~ James Baldwin, Collected Essays

Within each of us lives an Inner Patriarch that continues to carry the old patriarchal rules and values, many of which may have been taught us by our mothers. This Inner Patriarch controls us from the inside, not the outside. We do not necessarily know about him because he operates beyond the edges of our awareness. He rules from the shadows of our unconscious, which is why I sometimes call him the Shadow King. When we do not know about him, this Shadow King is our enemy. ~ Sidra Stone, The Shadow King

A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate. ~ Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

This month is Women’s History Month. To talk about the stories of women inevitably brings us to the difficult stories in our writer’s current experience at CRCF and their experiences in the past. Our work, as writers, is to explore our thinking and our thinking is inextricably tied to our feelings. To think of the old stories is to feel them.

We wandered together this week on the page and through deepening layers of inner landscape. When we examine these layers, we can know what we want. This is difficult but the circle and that page are built to withstand these challenges.

In the pieces below, you will read the stories our writers shared with us and each other this week. They were not written easily but they are as much as part of our history as any headline.

A HAUNTING PAST

The stories holding me back,
are memories of my past,
haunting my inner being,
making me emotional,
leaving me broken down, bleeding, pleading for mercy,
from this agony,
still I remain strong,
standing tall with a smile on my face like nothing,
was ever wrong,
I try so hard to let my past go,
and sometimes I do,
when the person who hurt me is sorry,
true to their word,
unfortunately so few are,
in time we shall see truth and lies.
What’s their story?
You know what i mean,
truth always reveals itself in the ending.
It’s okay. I’ve learned to love myself enough
and that will help me keep my head up.
Through this rough spot in my life,
the walls encasing me.
These bars on my windows.
These chains hanging tightly to my feet.
The people that micromanage me,
I have good things yet to come.
People who love me,
a beautiful boy of three who call me mommy,
love awaits me,
love is what binds us,
defines us
and molds us into who we’re meant to be! Continue reading

what is love

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Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Love the moment and the energy of that moment will spread beyond all boundaries. Corita Kent

This week, we began a month celebrating love. We live in what has been called, at best, “interesting times.” We decided, as a counter measure and as support, to focus our month on love – celebrating it, discussing it, and exploring it through art and writing. We began this month with the writings of Pablo Neruda whose line in his Sonnet XVII “I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,” resonated with all of us. It may appear that a prison is a place where love does not go but it is even more important here than elsewhere. How can love be fostered behind prison walls? How can it reach in and reach out?

In the poems below, you will read the beginnings of these explorations by a group of writers delineating for themselves and on the page what it means to love and be loved.

LOVE

Love should be unconditional and
straightforward. Love should be
honest and sincere. Love should be
a form of respect toward one
another. I feel love should be
wholesome and fulfilling. I don’t believe
objects should take the place of love.
When you are loved, you feel wanted
and need like your emotional well-being
is being met. When you have struggled
with getting the love that you have longed for
all your life, there is a void that comes
from within, an emptiness that is succumbed
by wants and desires that may be unhealthy
or have negative repercussions or consequences.
You become fueled by the desire to fill a thirst
or hunger that wants what the heart wants
because for a huge part of your life, you have felt
subdued by suppressive emotions, a huge part
of you has always felt like a black hole
of nothingness, a blob of unloving complicated
feelings of a sadness so deep, no one might ever
understand because your human self is so complex
and full of despair what do you do with this do
you try to bury it like it never happened – no embrace it
and make your voice heard because
we all deserve love.

MS

*** Continue reading